We recently moved to a new neighborhood that oozes suburbia and is neatly lined with sidewalks to walk, parks to play, and neighbors to say hello too. There is even a couple that frequently takes their three-legged dog and billy goat for a walk. Yes, an actual goat. It’s quite lovely.
A couple of evenings this summer, after the sun had set, I took advantage of now living in a safe neighborhood (our other hood was somewhat, well, hoodlumish) and had an evening walk. Sounds peaceful right? But here’s the catch – I was walking off an array of emotions that had me spinning with feelings of confusion, frustration, and tears. And no, it wasn’t because my brother-in-law/roommate just spilled most of an entire beer on our brand new couch…he is now required to use an adult sippy cup at all times. We also now own a set of PLASTIC wine glasses – you can probably infer why. Upside – plastic is classy. And yes, I asked my brother-in-law if I could throw him under the bus for humor’s sake before writing this and he was a willing participant. 😉
So what was I walking off? Marital strife. We had just had an argument. We had just butted heads and butted hearts and hadn’t fully resolved the issue. I had to get away and pray. Process. Pray. Process. Pray…
But don’t let this be misleading. I wasn’t withdrawing and avoiding dealing with the conflict. More on that unhealthy habit another time.
We had dealt the cards, looked at our hands, and realized that we had both been dealt an ‘exploding kitten’ and didn’t have a ‘defuse’ card to disarm our current reality.
In other words, Cody and I don’t think the same on everything, we have different desires and expectations than one another at times, my personality is a little better than his 😉 (JK!), and not all conflicts can be solved in one or two conversations. So you lay your cards out for one another, seek to understand, and then pray together and apart. And for those who are wondering, ‘did she just say exploding kitten?!’ – Yes, I did. It’s a new card game that began on Kickstarter and we now own it and it is fun and is like totally all the rage – hair toss*. -(http://www.explodingkittens.com/)
Why am I telling you all this? Well, something gripped me the other day – an oreo cake craving…wait, I digress. Glorious, fabulous, and amazing. These were the descriptive words I recently used in a couple of Facebook statuses about our 6 year anniversary. Reflecting on those words, I can honestly say that I mean them, but what is not said in the anniversary status is that sometimes our marriage has frustration, sadness, disappointment, and anger. I wondered if some people read the status and thought, why are those no where near the words I would use to describe my marriage? Well folks, we can’t all have a Manbeast – that’s just too much awesomeness and…hair…and too many clogged drains. But seriously, we all tend to post the positives more than the full picture of our lives on Facebook and I felt the conviction to present more of the full panorama.
I believe most people know that marriage has ups and downs. Most people know that it isn’t always a fairytale and there will be conflict. So if we know this, how are we going to traverse the coming land mines and the exploding kittens? How are we going to communicate in healthy ways and learn how to love each other well in the midst of the conflicts?
There is so much that could be said about the topics of communication and conflict resolution, but I just want to share about a few things I’ve observed and about a particularly helpful book that everyone should read now. Like now.
Or after you finish this delightful blog post 😉
Before we married, Cody and I read through a book called, “A Lasting Promise” by Scott Stanley. It was an assigned part of my reading for a counseling class I was taking at seminary and since we had just gotten engaged we decided to read it together. How incredibly thankful I am that we took the time to do so. The book covers many topics, but the topics regarding healthy communication and conflict resolution stuck with me the most.
It said that each of us tend to favor an unhealthy communication pattern or two when dealing with conflict with a spouse or really anyone we are in conflict with. The four unhealthy patterns are:
- Escalation: poke, Jab, POke, JAb, POKE, JAB!!!
- Invalidation: Your hair looks like a mop and the fact that me saying that upsets you is just silly. Get over it.
- Negative Interpretation – I don’t think he noticed that I trimmed my bangs. He either noticed and hated it or didn’t notice cause he doesn’t even see me anymore…I’m nothing to him. He never loved me – ugly cry*
- Withdrawal and Avoidance – running away from conflict like a cat runs away from a vacuum cleaner. (italics are my addition, not examples from book)
We all tend to engage in one or more of these patterns during conflict. If we can understand what these patterns are and how they express themselves, we can then fight to no longer engage in them. In Part II, I plan to explore these in more detail.
On one of my walks this summer, as I prayed, the Lord reminded me to trust the Holy Spirit in Cody. I was also reminded that we are different; have different desires, temperaments, personalities, and needs and one of the greatest things we can offer to each other is to BE like Christ. Jesus said that if we abide in Him that we would bear fruit and this fruit is full of great stuff like patience, self-control, gentleness, love, peace, kindness, goodness, joy, and faithfulness. If the communication patterns that we use are full of spirit fruit, I’d say we will probably be communicating very well through conflict.
So the next time my brother-in-law takes half an hour to use the bathroom and forgets to use the Poo Pourri (http://www.poopourri.com), I will access the fruit of joy and joyfully pester him until he gets out.